In May, 2005 a nationally acclaimed psychologist who specializes in eating disorders was arrested in West Hartford, Connecticut after inhaling aerosol from whipped cream cans and passing out on a supermarket floor. The woman claimed later to have been in a state of deep psychosis due to an extreme deprivation diet she was experimenting with.
Yes, a healthy, educated young woman who was an expert and acutely aware of the psychological processes going on when dieting craved sugar so desperately that she almost killed herself. That’s a solid case study in why fad diets don’t work. Telling yourself to ‘just do it’ doesn’t work. At least not for most of us and certainly not for very long.
Most of us eat what we like for psychological reasons. 100% of us drink or smoke for psychological reasons. It tastes good, it makes you feel good, takes the edge off, whatever, but you’re doing it to change your state somehow. You eat and drink to feel good, and when something feels good you naturally want more of it.
That feeling is just a logical association you make though. It’s got nothing to do with macro-nutrient proportions or recommended daily intakes.
Consciously or subconsciously our brain makes connections between things we sense – sights, sounds, smells, tastes – and how we feel about them. The smell of sunscreen reminds me of the beach as a kid, and makes me feel happy and joyful – despite living in Switzerland over 600km from the closest beach. The smell of insect repellent reminds me of growing up in Australia and I feel nostalgic. Despite being chemical, even toxic queues, I have very positive associations with these things and they instantly trigger strong, positive emotions.
We’re left 100% to ourselves to interpret these senses. If you can associate a healthy diet and exercise with feeling good, and unhealthy food and overeating with pain then you will actually want to eat healthier and you’ll enjoy it. Once the association is there and it’s strong enough, to your brain there’s no difference. You will literally crave the avocado and rocket salad with the same fondness as the guy next to you is enjoying his mega-burger and beer.
Try it yourself
You need to work on it and it takes a bit of time to get the habit but this is powerful stuff. Once you start feeling good, if you eat and exercise with awareness and you consciously make these associations, you’ll build the habits you need to live a healthier life. It’s that simple.
Try this for just ten days. If you can change the way you think about food then getting fit again is easy. Once you start thinking about how food and exercise is making you feel, you’ll actually want, even crave healthier food.
What do you have to lose? If you decide you really do like pizza and don’t care that it makes you sick you can apply that sensory acuity to a future life free of guilt. That’s not bad. If you feel better you can choose to continue and profoundly effect your own future and the futures of those around you.